They only formed two years ago, but that hasn’t stopped Baddies from taking over Europe. They’ve already headlined shows in Hamburg, Amsterdam and Paris and have played nearly every European festival there is (thirty three this year alone, to be exact).
Baddies have been tipped the ‘next big thing’ to come out of the UK and we’re soon to find out why as they bring their ballsy guitar riffs and pop sensibility to our shores later next month. Dan got Baddies’ drummer Jim Webster on the phone to find out more about the formula for the perfect song, touring on a shoe-string budget and doing one hundred and twenty eight gigs on one year.
What follows is, admittedly, quite a long and in-depth interview but I just didn’t have it in me to cut out any of Jim’s comments. He’s such a rad bloke, and we got to talking a lot about the nature of the music industry these days, I figure publish and be damned… all those who can’t be bothered reading it all.
Music Feeds: So what’s been happening with you guys as of late, let’s start there. What have you been up to?
Jim Webster: We just literally got back from a seven week European tour. We started off in the UK and then we went pretty much everywhere to promote the debut album. It went really, really well. They’ve been quite small shows, but there’s been between fifty and a hundred at every single one, all there for us, in countries even like Poland and places like that, which is quite mad, considering we haven’t had a great deal of publicity or marketing or anything like that, so it’s been really enjoyable. Every gig was great fun on the tour. It’s a lot of travelling and a bit tiring, a lot of wine and beer and things like that, but the gigs always make up for it in the end. So it’s been really good, we’ve just been gigging all year. I think we calculated that in the last year we’ve done one hundred and twenty eight gigs.
MF: In a year. Wow.
JW: Yeah, and we were working full time for about three months of that and we recorded the album, so we’ve done more than one every three days. It’s been quite hard. Looking forward to a bit of break, I think.
MF: For sure. I’m always struck by, especially bands form the UK, if you guys wanna do a world tour you can do it form the UK, you can pretty much do the whole of Europe on minimal funding, whereas for a band from Australia it’s a big deal to get overseas.
JW: Yeah absolutely, I couldn’t agree more with that. It’s quite a nice related area, if you like. I guess for a lot of bands, if you’re based in Japan or any sort of areas like that, it’s gonna be hard to get out. You’re quite right, we’re really lucky to be able to hop over the water and we’re got the whole of Europe to tour. And you know, it’s a difficult one, it’s quite a shame that money comes into it, trying to promote a band. If a band is good enough they should be given an opportunity to sort of go everywhere but someone’s gotta pay for it and it’s a real shame. It’s kinda one of those horrible little buggers of the music industry.
MF: Well that’s it – the unfortunate consequences of geographic isolation.
JW: Yeah, but you guys have got the good weather so that’s alright.
MF: That’s true I guess. So now, you guys just finished a European tour and you’ve only been around for two or three years right?
JW: Yeah that’s right.
MF: What do you think it was that helped to get your name out there and play so many shows? Was it a grassroots thing or more the label’s influence?
JW: What happened with us is that basically we got involved with a booking agent in April 2008 and after playing a thing called The Great Escape in Brighton he loved the band and really wanted to get involved in booking the band for the show. But when you get a booking agent involved you need other things to put into place as well, so in order for them to book a show you need a single or things like that and a release that’s actually going to be coming out so all the press around it can be pushed towards this band releasing this single and they’re touring to promote something.
So from that really, we decided we were gonna release a single and we released ‘Battleships’, as a limited edition single. It seemed to kick off from there really. It was the best foot forward and that track seemed to get us a lot of interest. We then played a convention called Eurosonic in Holland and that was every promoter from Europe that went to that particular show and after that we got booked for every festival. We played thirty three festivals this year.
MF: I was reading you guys played Glastonbury this year as well.
JW: That was pretty cool, we were on the John Peel Stage, which was a bit of an honour, really. Obviously John Peel is a legend over here. But were on quite early, it was like half past twelve or something like that, so it wasn’t particularly big but it was still an amazing experience to play Glastonbury and another one under the belt. But to be playing all over Europe, we take it in stride now, but when you actually think about it, it is pretty mad to be doing your own headline show all over Europe already. We’re building that fan base gradually.
MF: So do you think the business side of it, for you guys, had come in quite early? Obviously all of you had gone into it because you love music and you love playing music, but do you think the business of it and, like you were saying, establishing a single and all that… do you think it’s important for a band to do that, approach it from both angles and be mindful of the fact that you’re not out there just playing music, you’re out there to try and make a living as well?
JW: I think in a way it keeps you quite grounded. It’s not the most ideal situation because you do want to be able to concentrate just on the music and not worry about anything else, but then again it also makes you not waste opportunities and things like that because you know what it actually means. So it is a bit of a pain when you have to start talking about things like money and how we’re gonna finance things, merchandise and if we’ve got money to buy this, organising transport, and all those kinds of things. Basically we have to be a part of every aspect really and it can be quite draining sometimes.
But when you do get some kind of success it makes it that little bit more sweet because you’ve put that bit more effort in and you’ve had more to do with it. So I think it really is the only way. We didn’t have any other opportunities with big labels. Everyone was sniffing around saying they want to do things, but there were no offers on the table so we wanted to get the album out and just took the bull by the horns and said ‘right, this is what we’re gonna do’.
MF: Let’s go back a bit, because I actually want to find out a little bit about how you guys came together. I know Michael pulled you in when he came up with the idea of starting a band in 2007, but had you been playing around in bands before that?
JW: I’d been in another band for a long time called Reading, for about ten years, since we were about fourteen, we were just doing bits and pieces, and Mike and I were in band when we were a lot younger, a band called Podium, which was just your regular high school band, doing Nirvana covers, and writing our own stuff as well but having all our school friends coming to the shows. So we did that for years, I joined the band Reading when I was still in this band with Mike, and the band and Mike sort of split up and I carried on in this other band, so we were in separate bands for years and Mike had asked me to join another band but I couldn’t really leave the other band, cause things were going well.
But we always said that the last thing that we’ll ever do is give it a proper go and get into a band together. Each step came naturally, like the singer form my band was leaving the band so were looking for a new singer and the singer from Mike’s band decided he didn’t want to do it anymore and in the end it was the natural thing to do.
And we were really good friends with Simon, the guitarist, and we went about getting him involved, and I’ve worked with Danny and we just sort of said ‘we’re looking for a bass player, what do you think?’ He was sort of not looking to do music anymore, he had enough, you know, being in a band and things not working out, but I said, ‘look, come and jam with us and give this a go’, and as soon as we did it just naturally came together.
MF: So do you think the success Baddies have had is due to the line-up, or do you think you guys have stayed together because of the success?
JW: I think it’s a bit of both to be honest with you. I think when you see success, or a good reaction I should say, it just drives you to want more, and if you get another good reaction with another track, another single or an album or anything that you do or a live show, I don’t even think you think about it too much when you’re writing the music, you just do what is right at the time, and if we hadn’t have had that good reaction we probably would have continued to be doing it anyway because we don’t know any better.
But when you’re kicking around in a local band for years and years and you’re always struggling for the next best thing, which might be even just a gig in London, it’s hard. So I just think you have to keep it relevant to what you’re doing at the time. And I couldn’t say we wouldn’t have been doing if we didn’t have success, but I think our experience helps us with song writing and being sort of over-critical about our own music, kind of like ‘bullcrap, we don’t need that bit in there, let’s keep it short and to the point.’
MF: I think that’s a really important thing, like you were saying, cutting the fat, you know, being aware of the fact that sometimes musicians can get a bit too pretentious and add far too many embellishments to the sound. If you’re aware of that from the beginning it can definitely eliminate a lot of the problems you might find down the track, as far as crowd reception and things like that go as well.
JW: Yeah I think… I would always kind of play for the song and not for yourself. Not a lot of people, especially guitarists are the worst for it, maybe the odd drummer, but they quite commonly wanna show off how good they are on a particular instrument, and it’s like, ‘well, just show off as being part of band that writes good songs’, you know? Just because the drummer might not be the centre of attention, it doesn’t matter – the song should stand out rather than the drum beat. I’m not saying that people should try to push their band but it’s gotta be right for the song, people wanna be able to dance to the music, and I think that’s it really.
MF: So I was reading somewhere, I think on your MySpace page, it said that you guys kind of settled on the sound of the band quite quickly, was that by the virtue of the fact that everyone was familiar with each other, and knew where you all wanted to go with the sound?
JW: Yeah I think so. When we first started out, the sound was a bit different because Mike had written some acoustic tracks, and we basically rocked up and added bits and pieces and made it more of a band situation, added backing vocals and things like that. But what quickly happened was that the sounds found each other when we wrote songs together, so all the older songs quickly started falling out of the set and we had our own songs that were by all four members of the band. That happened right about the time when we wrote ‘Tiffany I’m Sorry’, which was the first track on the album and it kind of happened from there. We knew that it was the kind of sound that we wanted to do, we thought, ‘this is cool’ and we took it from there.
MF: We should definitely talk about the upcoming Australian tour. Is this the first time you guys have left continental Europe?
JW: Yeah it will be, we haven’t been anywhere further than mainland Europe, but it’ll be pretty amazing. It’s gonna be a first, coming all that way for two shows, but it’s gonna be perfect man. It’s a good spot for the Pyramid Rock Festival and apparently the Purple Sneakers New Years Eve parties are quite legendary so we’re really excited. And it’s quite a shock when you think about it, it’s an honour for your music to be available in all these parts of the world that you’ve never even been before or you might have not been able to afford to go to.
MF: Have you been able to gauge much of a response from the international release of Do the Job? You guys check up on album sales or that kind of thing just to see how the audience is responding?
JW: Well at this stage I don’t think too many people are buying records, but the album has been out for about a month and the last I heard about it we’ve done about five thousand copies. It’s not a record breaker by any means, but the way that we move forward with that is that we need to play to as many people as we can and need to push it with radio play and just get it out to new territories. And the only way to build it is the independent way, really. There might be bands, like Florence and the Machine, for example, that have sold two hundred and fifty thousand records in the UK, but the money that’s been pumped into that possibly outweighs what they’re gonna make back.
So when you’ve got an independent label, you’ve got a very small marketing budget, if you don’t get daytime radio play, which we do get a little bit, but not all that much, people just don’t know about you, it’s as simple as that. They can only like what they’ve heard, and if they haven’t heard of you then it’s always the same old problem, but we’re happy with what we’ve done so far. We were talking about it a couple of weeks ago in the band actually, thinking things like ‘oh, I bet we’ve only done a couple of thousand’, but then we heard it was double what we thought it would be, thinking that’s not that bad, it’s only been out for a month. Obviously, it’d be nice to see more, but you just do your best, don’t you?
MF: Well that’s it. And as you said in this day and age if you sell five thousand records it probably means that there’s twenty thousand people who are listening to it. If someone goes out and buys a record that means they’re gonna tell a bunch of their mates about this band, they’re gonna go, “these guys are fucking cool, you should listen to them”, regardless of whether or not they all buy the album.
JW: Definitely. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, and whether we’re all stuck in the mindset of the past, where you’d want to sell thousands of records, now people don’t. There’s a band, you might have heard of them… Dananananaykroyd?
MF: Yeah, those guys are awesome.
JW: Yeah, well, they’ve been touring for like four years, non-stop, and they’ve only sold seven thousand copies of their album and it’s been out for quite a while, you know what I mean? So when you look at it like that it’s a surprise it’s come quite quickly for us to match that. They had a session on Triple J radio when they came over to Australia, and I think the singer broke something.
MF: Yeah, I think he broke a bone in his arm or something jumping off the stage.
JW: Yeah, see I heard Triple J were really behind them and they did this session and after that they got this big following in Australia. It’s really important to go to Australia earlier I think, because if you make the effort people do recognise it, because it is a hard place to go to, in terms of travelling and expenses and things like that. But people make an effort with overseas bands, when you go, they think to themselves, ‘oh, let’s go check them out and support them’.
So there you have it folks, they’ve made the effort, the least you can do is see them at one of the two awesome shows they’ll be playing next month.
Wednesday 30th December
Pyramid Rock Festival Phillip Island VIC
Also appearing: The Juan Maclean, Telepathe, Architecture in Helsinki and many others.
Thursday 31st December
Purple Sneakers NYE Party Sydney Uni NSW
Also appearing: The Grates, Ponytail, Red Riders, Boxer Rebellion and more